the whitestick papers

looking at politics from a different perspective

A game of inches

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Political campaigns can be compared to a complex game; one with multiple levels of presentation, interaction and involvement, all with the end goal of seeing your guy elected and your opponent losing.  In simple terms, it has three basic layers, and each layer has its own strategies, approaches, ways to win and ways to lose.

The biggest and most expensive is also the most visible – the air war.  This is where the candidate is the most involved; the radio spots, the TV commercials, the interviews, the debates, the rallies and the visits to late night shows are all a part of this.  This is a game of miles and acres, seeking to blanket the electorate with the reasons to vote for your guy and vote against the other guy.   Few people are involved in this process, but they tend to be the folks closest to the inner circle and, except for the candidate, they have little, if any, direct contact with the people casting ballots.

Then there’s the ground game; the lawn signs and bumper stickers, the phone banks and neighborhood walks, the voter-ID and get-out-the-vote operations.  This is a game of feet and meters; putting a human face on the campaign, a local voice on the issues.  This consumes a lot of manpower and volunteer time, and these are the people touching other people, usually for a limited time and with limited contact.  It’s where candidates tend to forget to put time and money as it’s not as flashy or obvious, but it’s probably the most critical element to success as it brings the big effort down to the streets.

Finally, there’s the game of inches.  Many campaigns don’t even bother with it but, if the race is close, it can be the difference between a win and a loss.  It’s not involved with facts but with feelings, not with ideals or issues but with confidence and commitment.  At the same time, it’s something anyone can do and, in fact, it’s almost impossible not to do it if you’re informed and willing.

It’s simply a matter of influencing your friends and family.

This year, the Presidential race is one of the closest in recent memory – easily closer than the 2008 race and possibly closer than 2000, which came down to the difference of less than one vote in each of Florida’s precincts.  Every single vote in this election is critical – and anyone can influence one or two votes, which could make the difference between one candidate or another winning the election.

With the advent of social media – Facebook, Twitter, blogs, texting and the like – that ability to influence others, which used to be limited to lawn signs and bumper stickers, has taken on a whole new level.  So, the challenge is whether you are part of the game of inches or just let the opportunity –and, with it, the election – pass you by.

As the election enters into its final days, you’re probably getting political bits constantly.  To be part of the game of inches, all you have to do is pass them on.  If you get a statement by Reagan or Romney, Rush or Clint or Newt or Glenn that just says it well, whatever “it” is, re-tweet it.  If you get a photo or video that makes the point, “Share” it so your Facebook friends can see it, too.

Interestingly, this works best to undercut the opposition more than promote a candidate, so even those not all that found of Mitt can forward a chart showing Obama’s failure to grow the economy, a video demonstrating Obama’s saying the same things now that he said in 2008, or an article exposing his socialist policies or general disconnect with the American people.  You don’t have to support the Republican candidate; you can support a third-party candidate and still find value in targeting the flaws and failures of Barack Obama.

The amazing thing is anyone can do this.  If you want to add a comment, fine; it often makes the point all the sharper.  But it’s not necessary; all you really need to do is pass on something that comes across your computer screen to influence the vote of one or two other people.  The more that do it the better; the impact of getting the same information from two or three friends can change a vote or, at least, keep someone you know from voting for the wrong person.

The power is in the personal element; that friend knows you and your opinion makes more of an impact than all the fancy TV ads they’ll see during the election.  This election may come down to a game of inches, and anyone can play on that field.

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Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

18 September 2012 at 11:57 am

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